Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel

If you follow the age-old tale, the children, Hansel & Gretel are taken in to the dark of the woods by their father after their stepmother orders them to be kicked out in order to leave enough food for the other children, hers. After their survival trail of breadcrumbs is lost they are left to survive in the deepest part of the terrifying night and all seems lost. However all doesn’t seem so bad when they stumble upon a house made of candy and chocolate and all seems to be right with the world. Enter the evil witch, kids kill the witch all ends happily ever after. Now isn’t that how fairy tales are meant to end so we can all go back to sleep!?

With the release of the 3D Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters to bring a ‘classic tale with a new twist’ the ‘kids’ will survive only to take up a career from that early workplace experience in witch killing. The twins head out into the world becoming witch hunting mercenaries. As our story will start we are in Augsburg where worried parents are wanting any sign of a witch expunged from their community. Hansel and Gretel enter to save the day but with the Blood Moon about to rise on the community we are one more child kidnapping away from a witch frenzy.

While the story could have some premise it never creates the tension to make you feel it could all end badly and set the platform for disaster or deliverance. This fairy tale really just becomes a nightmare on so many levels. The script is occasionally funny but not enough to be a comedy. Dropping in an occasional ‘F’ bomb is meant to make us laugh at the out of place culture shock from the medieval setting. Hansel’s constant injections to deal with the sweet tooth he got as a kid munching on the witch’s candy and gingerbread should be an infomercial for a diabetic’s organisation but that would be too interesting.

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy! I like Jeremy Renner – a lot; but this was painful. Part of the buzz prior to release was because of Mr Renner’s involvement in the production but seriously Jeremy, what were you thinking. I hope someone sat his agent down and had a really good talk about any future productions involving fairy tales, witches or 3D. Yes, I want Jeremy Renner’s black leather jacket costume but the role can go to someone else.

This revamp, steampunk, gorefest version of the story just isn’t for kids and probably not for tasteful adults either. Norwegian director, Tommy Wirkola has brought together the acting talent and what could have been a unique telling of the old story and left it somewhere in the bad video game basket. It’s the kind of movie that gives 3D technology a bad name. The idea of having an immersive aspect to the movie theatre doesn’t mean keep throwing things out of the screen until the audience stop screaming. Sure, it’s meant to be ‘fantasy’ but the death by ogre routines were left over from Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained cutting room floor.

Gemma Arterton arms up as Gretel and sure she and Renner kick some witch butt, BUT it doesn’t help the movie. Arterton took Jennifer Lawrence’s bow and arrow routine up a level with a cross-bow on steroids while wearing leather pants that you should not be able to run in but it wasn’t enough. Famke Janssen put in a Phoenix style performance that actually works better when the special effects makeup isn’t in place. With Peter Stormare making an appearance I hoped for more high calibre bad guy but his character was stepped on reasonably early. We also have a small witchy poo role for kiwi actress Zoe Bell who has previously been a stunt double for Lucy Lawless as Xena and Urma Thurman in the Kill Bill series. Watch for her also in Django Unchained.

I wanted to like Hansel & Gretel, I really did. We’ll see in the rear view mirror what the public thinks, but I think the only money the studios may make out of this is by suing the other two 2013 releases that are also out under the name Hansel & Gretel. Sad, but not the fantasy action fare we had hoped for when the posters and trailer looked oh so good.

R16 – Violence, offensive language & horror.

2 out of 5 popcorns

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